Vegan Mofo 17: S is for Sesame Tofu (Goma Dofu)

Think tofu has to be made from soy? When I first came across this Japanese dish called Goma Dofu or sesame tofu, I thought it was an ingenious idea – a soy-free tofu made from sesame paste!

Tofu, in the traditional sense, is made by coagulating proteins in soy milk. Common coagulants used are magnesium chloride (nigari), calcium chloride or calcium sulphate (gypsum). (The divalent cations of these salts react with the anionic groups of the soy proteins, which destabilizes their structure and cause coagulation.) However since sesame does not contain as high levels of protein as soy, Goma Dofu is solidified using a starch, typically kuzu or kudzu starch, although arrowroot or potato starch may also be used. On the differences between the different starches, kuzu starch, which is extracted from the root of the kuzu plant, imparts a more elastic texture than arrowroot or potato starch.

I bought the Goma Dofu from a Japanese supermarket although it can be easily made from just three ingredients – sesame paste (white or black), kuzu starch and water. My first thought? Bleah, just pass me real tahini instead! It was starchier than expected but less so than tapioca balls, slightly gelatinous and wobbly, and its consistency was firmer than silken tofu not quite as firm as an agar jelly. It had a mild hint of sesame just enough to be noticed, but left you craving more, and being the ardent tahini addict, I proceeded to smother the goma dofu in a coat of tahini. Much better!

Typically, Goma Dofu is served as an appetizer or as a course in kaiseki dining. It was probably invented by Japanese Buddhist monks and is considered the most symbolic food of Shojin Ryori (vegetarian temple cuisine). Apart from excluding meat and fish, one website even says that root vegetables are excluded! It is believed that harvesting will cause the death of the vegetables, which is against their principle philosophy of “don’t kill.” As such, only grains, beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits are used. An in-depth article on Shojin Ryori can be found here.

So overall, I didn’t quite take to Sesame Tofu, although some has gone so far as to describe it as giving melt-in-your mouth experience. Sesame Tofu is not only the faux tofu; this can also be made with ground peanuts (peanut tofu), or also check out Shan tofu, a Burmese staple made from chickpea flour.

Zesty Apple Pie Oatmeal

It was bound to happen; apple pie in all forms had been manifesting everywhere. First a salted maple, apple, and pecan oatmeal was featured on The Oatmeal Artist’s blog. Then I had an amazing apple pie for dessert to end a sumptuous feast at a relative’s house last night. It was a no-holds-barred apple pie: a buttery flaky pastry base, tart cinnamony apples and a sugary crispy crust. To continue the apple pie saga, I was greeted by the cutest interpretation of apple pie oatmeal by Brittany, as I checked Instagram just before I turned it for the night (she was recently featured on The Oatmeal Artist’s blog too). You can’t fault me if I dreamt of apples, pies and apple pie. This morning that was turned that into reality.

However instead of the usual applesauce-based apple pie oatmeal, I did a twist using a zesty orange-passionfruit-banana sauce which I adapted from here. The original recipe was meant to be a sorbet, but I left it in the refrigerator instead of the freezer, and it turned out the consistency of applesauce, so I thought it would be a fun substitute.

It definitely was. The citrusy notes from the orange and passionfruit added a unique, refreshing dimension to the classic cinnamon apple pie flavour we are all so familiar with. Here’s to apple pie! Excuse my amateurish attempt at being artistic. If you can make it out, it’s actually maple almond butter drizzled in the shape of an apple and filled with baked apple pieces.

Zesty Apple Pie Oatmeal
Makes one bowl
Vegan

Ingredients

  • 1/2 apple, chopped (I used Jazz)
  • 2 tbsp orange passionfruit sauce (see below; can use applesauce)
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Dash of pumpkin pie spice (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/4 tsp chia seeds (optional)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk (soy, almond, rice, coconut)
  • 1/2 scoop protein powder (optional)
  • Nut butter to drizzle (I used Maranatha maple almond butter)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F/180°C. In a small oven-proof casserole or ramekin, mix chopped apple pieces with orange passionfruit sauce, spices and vanilla extract. Bake for 12 mins until slightly softened.
  2. Meanwhile as the apple is being baked, prepare oatmeal. Bring oats, chia seeds and water to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 mins until thickened, add milk and simmer another 5-10 mins more.
    Note:the apple should have finished baking before the oatmeal is done; if not turn off heat and let oats stand.

  3. Mix the baked apples and protein powder (if using) into the oatmeal. Pour everything into a small oven-proof casserole and bake for another 10 mins to achieve a crispy “pie crust.”
  4. Top with nut butter of choice.

Orange passionfruit sauce
Makes 3/4 cup.
Ingredients

  • 1/2 large orange, peeled
  • 1/2 passionfruit
  • 1/2 banana, sliced

Directions

  1. Remove veins and pith from orange and cut into segments. Blend orange until very smooth.
  2. Blend orange puree together with passionfruit and banana.
  3. Chill in refrigerator to thicken (you may also freeze it to make a sorbet).

 
P.S. I tried a new Japanese brand of organic soy milk today called Meiraku, which I bought from Isetan supermarket. It claims to contain at least 10% soy beans (if I read the Japanese label correctly) and boasted a super beany and creamy taste! I’ve been using Silk or Pacific for years, but I may have uncovered a new gem!

P.S.S. I’ve got a job interview for Medical Technologist at a local hospital tomorrow. Super nervous and excited!

For Sake’s Sake

sake-mirin-miso

Sometimes all it takes is to try something new to change your life. Like how an experiment with oatmeal four years ago engendered hundreds of porridge bowls thereafter, I can feel that the sip of sake as a digestif post-lunch this afternoon is going to be life-changing.

It’s been a long-harboured dream to make Nobu’s famed three-day miso-marinated black cod. Finally, after years of dilly-dallying, I decided it was time to get down to business. With just four ingredients, the marinade couldn’t be more simple – miso, sake, mirin and sugar. The problem was I was not familiar with the first three Japanese ingredients. Shiro (white), shinshu (yellow) or aka (red) miso? Junmai sake or Honjozo sake? Ginjo or Tokubetsu? All these terms were confusing, and the ornate lettering of the Japanese language crisscrossed on the bedazzling array of miso packets and sake bottles did not help either. But one has to start somewhere, and so I started at the most logical place – Meidi Ya Japanese supermarket.

As pictured in the top photo, I returned with:
> Sake: Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai sake
> Mirin: Takara organic mirin
> Miso: a mix of shiro & aka miso (freshly homemade, from a pop-up stall at Isetan supermarket)

But the point of this post is all about the sake. The Junmai Tokubetsu (meaning special in Japanese) was like no other wine I had before. It was almost like white wine (sauvignon blanc) but far more zesty, clear, sparkly and crisp. As a very inadequate metaphor to describe the sake, imagine twinkling stars on your palate upon drinking the wine. According to the website, the Tokubetsu uses rice milled to 60%, so I can’t imagine how much better can a more premium sake be (e.g. a daiginjo, milled to 30%). Rice is milled or “polished” before being used in brewing to eliminate the fats, proteins, and minerals on the outer portions of the grain that can inhibit fermentation and cause off flavors in the finished product. As a general rule of thumb, the more milled the rice is, the more refined and elegant the sake is supposed to be. I enjoyed the sake so much that I made a sake fruit bowl of chopped apples, strawberries, grapes and papaya with a tablespoon of sake poured over. It worked beautifully, if not better, than balsamic vinegar!

This has brought on a brainstorm of possible ways to use sake: sake sangria, sake sorbet, sake marinades, sake pasta … I’m so excited!

YumYum at NamNam Noodle Bar

Dining out NamNam chicken pho

A steaming bowl of slurpilicious Pho Ga (Vietnamese chicken rice noodles) at NamNam Noodle Bar, Wheelock Place, as a prelude to an extremely fruitful and happy shopping trip. The thin, silky rice noodles glided down the throat on a joy ride, aided by a clean yet robust chicken broth. There’s no icky oil or MSG involved, just generous heaps of onions, scallions, cilantro, and tender pieces of chicken on top of it all. This is definitely not for the onion-haters. Now I totally understand the unabating queue at this restaurant. At least their service is god-speed quick, the staff well-trained to handle the office hour lunch crowd.

With regards to the shopping haul, it included a plain white long sleeve shirt from Mango (for convocation purpose), and from Topshop a black/white cotton dress, a white lace crop top and a matching long flowy skirt with prints. Thanks Mum for the purchases!

The End and a New Beginning

NUS results

Four years of hard work, enduring lectures on seats as hard as rock, numerous projects, essays, lab work … all these has has been distilled to a mere three-digit figure: 4.59. At 7.40am when my phone buzzed, my heart started thumping and stomach did some super somersaults. I didn’t immediately open the message but steadied myself for disappointment, since I felt I didn’t do well in the last exams. Finally, I decided to open and read the message, but did so in slow motion, to prevent any potential heart attack. Using my palms as a shield, I unveiled the message line by line, taking in the results of each module before the final CAP score. And then my eyes peeked at the all-important grade and I couldn’t believe what I saw. Was I still dreaming? I rubbed my eyes, blinked a few times, but no, the numbers stared back clearly and unmistakably. I took in the implications: First Class Honours. I didn’t feel a surge of happiness, more of like, disbelief and “okay, that’s good, what next?” Maybe it does make it easier to secure a postgraduate position or research job, but it doesn’t help to improve my interpersonal skills (no doubt lacking) or physical image. If only such success can be replicated in other areas of my life. Is that being too greedy?

As if it was a augur to the good news, I received my parcel from iHerb yesterday. It was timely since I was getting a bit sick of the macadamia nut butter, as lovely as it is. After the major haul (and burnt pockets) from RawFoodWorld, my order was relatively small this time, consisting of a few delicious items only: Galaxy Granola (raspberry), Chia Seed Peanut Butter (original and chocolate) and Artisana Coconut Butter. A year ago I would have scoffed at consuming coconut in any form (saturated fats!); I can’t believe how the Laughing Giraffe macaroons have transformed by outlook and now I’ve even a huge jar of coconut butter!

iherb haul This morning as a prelude to the results I whipped up a hot bowl of Banana Mango Peanut Butter Oatmeal. It featured the original Chia Seed Peanut Butter. Bits of swollen chia seeds were embedded within the sticky paste; the paste itself was fairly smooth but it had a slightly stale taste, definitely not in the league of Maranatha’s peanut butters. I had a tasting of the chocolate version; the cocoa had drowned out the peanut taste a fair bit, which defeats the purpose of eating peanut butter, so I prefer the original version.

Stop the World, I Wanna Get Out

Weekend thumbnails

This week can easily be summed up in a few words: food, books and check-ups. Starting clockwise from the top:

Superb summer steals and splurges. A new Le Creuset oval stoneware casserole in a soothing shade of kiwi green has replaced my broken cherry red version. Although there was no option over color (only the kiwi green one was on sale), I’m not complaining given the deep discount ($99 $48 only!). The savings on the cookware were negated, however, by the splurge on a new bottle of balsamic vinegar – Il Borgo del Balsamico of Modena (orange label). This is the real deal, with certification status. I bought this to accompany a new bottle of EVOO Hamm bought from Perth (Mount of Olives, garlic). With a small 100ml jar costing $25, I’ll treat each drop as if it were liquid gold – to be used sparingly and wisely!

Health check-ups. I made visits to both the dentist and the optician, and the results could be regarded as both good or bad news, depending on how you look at it. An x-ray of my teeth showed that I did not have any tooth decay, but some early stages of teeth “osteopenia” is clearly evident, especially at the bottom front two teeth. My short-sightedness, though somewhat stabilized, is still crawling up inexorably (+50 on each eye).

Oatmeal! The creative juices on oatmeal concoctions are still going strong, culminating in combinations of all sorts – the wild, weird and wonderful. This includes (from left) Strawberry Pear & Macadamia, Strawberry Coconut Macadamia, and Banana Sweet Potato Souffle. The latter was really the ultimate. Here, steel cut oatmeal was cooked as usual except egg whites was used instead of the usual protein powder. After whipping in the mashed banana/sweet potato mix, I slid it into the oven then the magic started to happen. The oatmeal rose, and rose, and rose, till the bowl could no longer contain it and juices started dribbling down the sides (a happy mess). The oatmeal souffle stood tall and proud, deeply infused with the natural sweetness of caramelized bananas and sweet potatoes. That definitely is worthy of many repeats!

Pancakes! Still on the quest for the ever elusive perfect pancake puff. This time (#Round 3) I decided to test two recipes at once: real egg whites in one batch, and egg replacer (Orgran) in the second. The conclusion is that you can’t mimic the real stuff; real eggs win hands down. Recipe and detailed analysis is in a separate post.

Quinoa. The advantage of quinoa over other carbohydrate staples like rice is that it is so easy and quick to cook (15 mins only!). I’ve enjoyed my box of red quinoa (Ancient Harvest) in sweet breakfasts (banana coconut) and savoury salads. Versatile, nutritious, nutty, crunchy, protein-packed, what more could you ask? Next in mind is cocoa quinoa granola.

Burgers & sammiches. I once used to be a fan of Amy’s frozen burgers and would buy a box every other week or so. While I still love Amy’s products, I now practice restrain due to health and money reasons. No matter what, frozen burgers are a sodium bomb and Amy’s brand is particularly unkind on the wallet. This week, Chickpea & Sunflower Seeds Veggie burgers from Eatwell (an Australian brand) were on clearance sale and I succumbed. It’s my first time trying this brand and it’s not bad. It consists of 62% vegetables (carrot, potato, sweet potato, green peas, zucchini) and 15% chickpeas; in other words, the bulk of the burger was actually quite veggie-ful. They had a nice chewy texture, and tastewise, the herbs and spices were a little too strong especially on the garlic and onion, and a tad salty too. Arugula and salad leaves pairs well with this veggie burger by cutting through all that seasonings. Each patty is 177 kcal, packing 9.4g protein, 2.0g fat (0.9g sat) and 25.9g carb. I’d still prefer to make my own veggie burgers if I have the time; but you know what a hassle it is to open so many cans of beans and slice all those veggies, so this really appeals for its convenience.

Fruits! It has been a kaleidoscope of colourful juicy fruits, from wang zhong wang durians to Thai mangoes to red dragonfruits.

Job search. Still searching and keeping my options open, and listening for God’s voice on this matter. Some options include (1) further studies (MA/MD/PhD) in public health, epidemiology, health administration or clinical research (but I’m not really into statistics so I don’t know if this is the right choice), management programme with NHG or work and travel programme. The latter is quite far-fetched as I doubt Mum would ever agree to it, given the state I’m currently in. Still, it’s nice to dream.

Books for the soul. Call me cheapskate, but the past few days I’m been making trips down to Kinokuniya just to read Dan Brown’s latest Inferno for free. This calls for standing on your feet for hours on end, but you get to save $40 plus the entertaining book will make time fly by and you wouldn’t notice your aching feet at all. Currently at chapter 38 and more visits are in order in the next few days. At the Library’s book exchange, I managed to grab (literally, as you know how kiasu and pushy Singaporeans can be) some good books, including Fountainhead (Ayn Rand), White Devils (Paul McAuley), Bones to Ashes (Kathy Reichs), A World of My Own (Graham Greene) and Grey Eminence (Aldous Huxley). These books should keep me busy for quite some time.

Despite my seemingly busy week, and while I love being busied with reading, cooking, and going about town, there’s still this sense of lingering emptiness. Which brings me to the title of today’s post: Stop the world, I wanna get out . This is actually quoted from the lyrics of the same (beautiful) song by Matthew West.

The TV is talking
The telephone’s ringing
The lights are all on
And the radio’s screaming
A million distractions are stealing my heart from You
I’m tired and empty
This life is relentless
It weakens my knees
And breaks my defenses
It’s wearing me down and I’m desperate to hear from You

Stop the world I wanna get out
I need an escape away from this crowd
Just to hear You speak to me

Too many distractions in life, too many golden calves, and not enough silence.

I recognized this is a rather disorganized post but that’s what happens when you accumulate a week’s worth of thoughts to write about.